Marriage Equality Now a Mainstream Value

Our guest blogger is Ben Harris, intern for LGBT Progress.

A series of polls released over the past two months confirms that marriage equality is now a mainstream value. Public opinion polls by Gallup, ABC, NBC, and CNN have found support at 50, 53, 54, and 54 percent, respectively. This represents the highest support for marriage equality ever recorded. Historically, a majority of Americans have opposed marriage equality. These polls suggest that the public support has hit a tipping point, as polls over the past two years have shown that a clear majority favors the freedom to marry.

The Center for American Progress released an issue brief this week breaking down the numbers and looking forward to November as voters take to the polls to vote on marriage equality referenda in four states. The brief finds that the strong majority backing for equality is buttressed by strong, stable and increasing support from young voters, independents, and people of color – all crucial demographics in the upcoming elections. In fact, current polling suggests that marriage equality is poised to prevail in the four states with marriage on the ballot this fall.

In early May, President Obama became the first sitting president to endorse marriage equality. Polls since then suggest that his announcement strongly influenced African American voters. An ABC News poll found support among black voters at 59 percent after Obama’s announcement, whereas it hovered at about 40 percent beforehand. In the state of Maryland, support for the freedom to marry among black voters skyrocketed from 39 to 55 percent, a complete reversal from just three months ago. The President’s announcement has clearly made an impact in the African American community, one which could prove decisive at the ballot box.

These polls, however, continue to find a significant generational gap in support for marriage equality. While all age groups favor equality more today than a year ago, 73 percent of voters ages 18-34 back the freedom to marry, whereas only 35 percent of voters above the age of 64 do. With regard to political affiliation, recent polls find that about 60 percent of independents favor marriage equality. Both young voters and independents are potentially key voting blocks, and support for marriage equality among each demographic only continues to rise.

Gay couples eager to be married should be cautiously optimistic about the upcoming battles this November, with marriage equality on the ballot in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington. In those states, polls find support at 55, 57, 49, and 54 percent, respectively. What’s even more telling is the gap between those who support and those who oppose equality. In Maine, Maryland, and Washington, that gap is a staggering 20 points. Furthermore, advocates for the freedom to marry have leapt over the so-called “enthusiasm gap.” Today the percentage of voters who strongly support marriage equality outnumbers those who strongly oppose equality by 7 points, indicating that staunch opposition to equality for gay couples is losing steam.

Based on these polls, President Obama’s position on marriage equality now falls squarely in line with the majority of the American public, while Republican lawmakers still lag far behind, including the presumptive Republican nominee for President, Mitt Romney. There are strong signs that the freedom to marry will become law in at least one state this fall. But regardless of what happens in November, support for marriage equality is trending upward, and will likely continue to do so with growing support among young generations and other key demographics.